Last night I checked out some music at the Highline Ballroom. The Highline is a new venue in the Meatpacking district.
Out with the old, in with the new. Every year there is some small club or music hall that closes down. Sometimes they are monumental in stature and historical importance. Since I have been in New York i have lost some of my favorite venues...like the first venue in NY i went to, Tramps (i think i saw Bela Fleck and the Flecktones). Then there are venues that close that are seminal centers and meeting places for musical communities like Wetlands. Even more important are the places that are so connected with a musical scene and social movement that closing it down is outright criminal...like CBGBs.
These places are all gone, but it seems that new ones pop up just as often...usually with some corporate name attached like the Nokia Theatre, or upscale bars turned into music halls like Coda. I am usually not very impressed with these new places. It might seem that my dislike of new venues comes from some misplaced nostalgia for the old haunts...but I don't care. Music is not just noise...it breathes. Seeing live music is as much about who you are with and where you are then what you are hearing. I am much happier sitting in a place like CBGBs staring at the old graffiti then sitting at some new sweatbox looking at adds for lavalife online dating service.
But that's just me.
Anyway, back to last night. To start with, I hate the meatpacking district. It smells of rancid meet and ratshit. I got there early, and had a half hour to kill. I went around the corner to one of the dirtiest and sleaziest bars in the city, Red Rock Saloon. I sat down after getting carded by a big hairy biker that recognized me from where I bartend...that's right, he knew first hand that i was a bartender and still carded me. I ordered a Wild Turkey and paid $8 bucks. I realized this was no longer the bar it once had been and was drinking fast so i could leave. After the self-labeled "queen of trash" bartender called me a pussy for not drinking a kamakazee shot, i got up and left.
I won't be missing that bar any time soon.
I got back to the Highline Ballroom just as my friends got there and we went in. Here are the things we noticed about the new venue.
- Nobody was checking bags or frisking the concert goers.
- There was no VIP section.
- The beers were $5...cheaper than the local dive bar.
- The stage was easily accessible and close to the crowd.
- Nobody got busted for smoking.
- Not too hot.
- Clean bathrooms (that won't last long)
I loved it. Great venue. It opened in May and was obviously put together by someone who really loves live music. The sound was great everywhere, it was a nice wide room and easy to get back and forth, and looking at the schedule, they have good taste in music. Last night, it was a split bill between Assembly of Dust and JJ Grey & MOFRO.
AOD was good, but we were there to see MOFRO. For those of you who mock my hippie tendencies, this is not a Jamband. They are much loved in the live music scene but they are blues musicians. More to the point, they are down home-Florida swamp-sweaty funk, blues band...blues with and attitude. They pulled off a normal set last night, but the highlight was most definitely the cover of Muddy Water's Mannish Boy.
good night of music!